Greg X is fighting the war on drugs among young people by not only serving as a certified substance counselor to students at August Martin High School and M.S. 72 in Queens, but also sharing his story about how drugs nearly destroyed his life.
Based in South Jamaica, Queens, Greg, 50, is founder of the Brotherhood Foundation and works with the King of Kings Foundation. He works with both organizations on conflict mediation in the streets and offers his expertise with substance abuse.
However, he says that when it comes to issues of drug and alcohol use among teens, the problem is far worse than people think.
“Our youth are in trouble,” he said. “We are not investing enough in the proper resources to fight this problem.”
Greg is not shy about saying that he too had his own battles with substance abuse coming up during an era when crack ruled the streets. He said the drug turned his Queens neighborhood into a dysfunctional place like many areas of the city at the time.
“I came up in a community that you would call a subculture. There were so many economically disadvantaged people, and they did what they could to create their own lifestyle and society. Depending on how you play by the rules, the coincidence was violence, death or drug abuse,” he said.
Greg said he became a drug addict. The turning point for him to change his life came in 1988, when his wife became pregnant with their daughter. He said he realized that he had abandoned his self-respect, dignity and pride.
He entered a drug treatment and 12-step program and started getting involved in community-based organizations. He also attributes religion with helping him overcome his addition. Upon getting clean, he set out on a mission to help others with their own addictions. Greg got a position in an outpatient treatment program and in 1998, became a substance abuse counselor working with men and women who were on parole.
In 2006, Greg founded the Brotherhood Foundation. The organization recently reconvened after the 2012 murder of 18-year-old Darryl Adams in the South Jamaica Houses. Today, the foundation serves as a pathway to nonviolence between men who formally ran the streets and then got their lives together and young men who currently run the streets.
Continuing on his mission to reduce drug use, Greg said that he’s seen people as young as 12 battling drug and alcohol abuse. He said while alcohol and marijuana use is still a problem, the use of “molly” or “ecstasy” pills is a major concern that is often glamorized in the youth attracted to hip-hop culture.
“Most young people use drugs and don’t know the psychological and physical effects [they] cause,” he said. “There are a number of stresses that kids are facing, from broken homes to being in detention centers, and there aren’t enough positive outlets for them to exert their energy. Idle time is the devil’s workshop.”
To get the message across to youth about the effects of drug use, Greg created a DVD titled “Hip Hop and Detox.” In it, he breaks down what drugs do to the body, like kill brain cells.
“I think I am making an impact,” he said. “I believe we can have a greater impact if we had a more powerful media backing. Ignorance is what’s selling platinum material today. What we are doing is presenting an alternative.”